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Moviemaking Mini-Lessons for More Creative Communicators

Pennsylvania Convention Center, Terrace Ballroom IV

Participate and share: Interactive session
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Teacher, Author, Speaker
James Workman Middle School
As a middle school teacher for 18 years and a California Teacher of the Year (2014), Jessica has continually worked to redefine what learning looks like in her classroom. An ISTE author, Jessica's book, Moviemaking in the Classroom. She is an advocate for student choice and voice, as demonstrated by the original content her students regularly publish for a global audience. Jessica spent over a decade as a professional development instructor and Consulting Teacher for a digital storytelling non-profit, and co-hosts the Storytelling Saves the World podcast. She is an ISTE Community Leader and The Edge podcast co-host.
Instructional Coach
Palm Springs Unified School District
Georgia Terlaje has taught for 34 years and is currently and instructional coach for Palm Springs Unified. She has used digital storytelling as an instructional strategy for 12 years and has presented on the topic at both regional and national conferences. She was also instrumental in creating PSUSD’s first elementary film festival that is now in it’s 4th year. Georgia is also a teacher-consultant for DIGICOM Learning. In this role, she is a lead instructor for professional development courses for teachers in the area of digital storytelling. Georgia has a digital storytelling podcast, “Storytelling Saves the World”.

Session description

Help your students become better storytellers and moviemakers using our series of mini-lessons designed to build audio-visual skills, refine story structure and establish feedback loops that transform project quality. Whether your students create in core content classrooms or in an enrichment space, this session is for you!

Purpose & objective

Attendees will engage in audio and visual literacy mini-lessons geared toward helping students grow their storytelling skills. Participants will also understand what makes compelling stories within the realm of moviemaking and how to help students structure their stories to most effectively and creatively communicate their purpose. Finally, participants will be able to establish feedback loops for their students during the creative process to refine work before it is fully created.

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1. Welcome, presenter introductions, Description of educational context in which presenters work (i.e. student and community demographics, barriers). - 3 minutes
2. (Peer-to-peer interaction: Participants are asked to build a word cloud using Mentimeter. The prompt participants are responding to is "When you assign a movie project, what is missing in students' end products?") Presenters examine the word cloud with participants, then share their initial classroom experience of giving students opportunities to create movies but then seeing the audio-visual skill gaps which prevented them from storytelling at a high-quality level. Thus, the advent of targeted mini-lessons to improve storytelling skills over time. A student sample will be shown as a benchmark for what can be achieved. (Sample created by Hispanic/Latinx student.) - 10 minutes
3. Presenters showcase how teachers can use targeted mini-lessons on audio-visual literacy to help students produce better stories. These lessons/skills will be covered: audio-visual agreement, basic camera angles, film angle sorting activity, worst audio recording ever. All of these mini-lessons will be presented through both an in-person and blended/virtual learning lens with practical suggestions for how to deliver in any classroom context. - 20 minutes (Hands-on: Participants use devices to practice a few basic film angles, then upload their favorite to a shared Padlet wall. OR participants may choose to practice film angles with a Google Drawing sorting activity.)
4. Presenters discuss how teachers can help students understand what makes compelling stories and how to structure scripts so they contain the necessary emotional beats. These lessons/skills will be covered: understanding the Story Arc, Storytelling Frayer models, using a Story Spine, and utilizing feedback loops to refine work before it is fully created. All of these mini-lessons will be presented through both an in-person and blended/virtual learning lens with practical suggestions for how to deliver in any classroom context. - 15 minutes (Peer-to-peer interaction: Participants use the chat to exchange ideas and share experiences; prompts will be used to encourage this interaction.)
5. Closing and additional resources. - 2 minutes

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Supporting research

Pack, Jessica (2021). Moviemaking in the Classroom: Lifting Student Voices Through Digital Storytelling.

Gallo, C. (2019). Storytelling to Inspire, Educate, and Engage. American Journal of Health Promotion, 33(3), 469–472.

Peterson, L. (2018, October 17). The Science Behind The Art Of Storytelling. Harvard Business Publishing: Corporate Learning.

Vu, V., Warschauer, M., & Yim, S. (2019). Digital Storytelling: A District Initiative for Academic Literacy Improvement. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 63(3), 257-267.

Zak, P. J. (2013, December 13). How Stories Change the Brain. Greater Good Magazine.

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Session specifications

Grade level:
Skill level:
Curriculum/district specialists, Library media specialists, Teachers
Attendee devices:
Devices required
Attendee device specification:
Smartphone: Android, iOS, Windows
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials:
Attendees should have access to web browsers in order to utilize free versions of peer-to-peer interaction tools. Attendees may also want access to a device with a camera (other than the device they are using to participate in the virtual conference) in order to participate in a few of the mini-lessons.
Subject area:
ELL, Language arts
ISTE Standards:
For Students:
Creative Communicator
  • Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
  • Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
  • Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.